Bradley at the Gold Cup
The one that got away
December 9, 2007

When Jozy Altidore suited against South Africa a few weeks ago, it ended a year-plus spell of no Metro playing for the US senior national team. However, the number of former Metros has been anything but stagnant. Tim Howard. Ricardo Clark. Eddie Gaven. Michael Bradley.

The quartet, who all started their pro career with Metro, are now all elsewhere. Howard, after being the first American to become a regular at Man U, is now keeping clean sheets at Everton. Clark and Gaven are still in MLS, having productive careers. And Bradley is in Holland, starting for Heerenveen. Starting and scoring, for after this weekend's hat-trick -- HAT-TRICK -- against Groningen, Bob Bradley's son has a total of ten -- TEN -- goals for his club, in just 17 matches.

And it extends beyond his club, for Bradley has been stellar for the US as well. He helped them to the Gold Cup title, was arguably the best player against Brazil, and scored the game-winner against Switzerland for a rare win on European soil. That's not counting his play for the Under-20 side at the World Youth Cup, when he scored the overtime winner to beat Uruguay.

And it pains us. It pains us not because Michael is doing well, for we love for any homegrown Metro to succeed outside of MLS. It pains us because Metro received nothing -- NOTHING -- for Michael, as he walked away after just two years with the club.

In the cases of other players mentioned above, we can justify their departure. Howard had reached his potential in MLS; it was time for him to go, and Metro was compensated with a major allocation (of course, they wasted it on Sergio Galvan Rey, but that's a whole other story). Clark was traded so that Metro could sign Youri Djorkaeff; in retrospect, probably not the best move, but justifiable, for Youri was amazing in 2005 and was oh so close to pushing Metro over the top. The Gaven for Edson Buddle trade was as idiotic then as it is now, but at least we got six goals out of it.

We got nothing for Michael Bradley.

We'll repeat it, because it is beyond comprehension. Nothing.

Flash back to the end of the 2005 season. Bob Bradley is gone, but Michael finishes the season in a strong fashion, scoring the goal that put Metro in the playoffs, and playing incredibly well down the stretch. New coach Mo Johnston is more than willing to make Michael a major part of the squad. Michael is more than willing to play for Mo. He still had two years left on his MLS contract. But Alexi Lalas is in charge.

And we've bashed Lalas his fair share, but we need to do it again here. We understand that he was not a fan of Bob Bradley. We understand that the league sold Michael as a partial favor to Bob (as an unwritten rule, MLS does not sell young players). We understand that it worked out for the best -- for Michael -- as he is growing into a force in Europe.

But it worked out for the worst for Metro. Never mind the fact that Bradley was the youngest player in MLS history to be sold. The sale price, about $100,000, was not big enough to warrant an allocation from the league. Now, when major European clubs are looking to sign Michael away from Holland, that $100,000 sounds laughable. Forgive us for not laughing.

But there might be is a silver lining in all of this. If we to understand the situation correctly, MLS will be given a percentage if Michael is transfered again. So if Heerenveen sells Bradley for millions, MLS would get a chunk of that, and Metro, under the original agreement, would get a chunk of that chunk in form of an allocation. How much that entitles them in actual money is unfathomable.

And we're not holding our breath. For with the league twisting and changing its rules on every corner, with the complete sweepover changes in the Metro Front Office, who knows if anyone remembers that sale agreement, if it did exist in the first place. So we'll suck it up, and continue rooting for Michael, whether it's for the US, Heerenveen, or whatever team he goes from there.

"We feel that both Michael and the MetroStars will benefit in the future from this decision," Lalas said when Bradley's sale was announced. You got that half right, Alexi. You got that half right.

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